Collegeville at the Cross Roads

 

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The Collegeville Borough Council can serve its citizens best by reinstating its Business Liaison Committee and by partnering with and funding the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation (CEDC).  Many residents are puzzled as to why the Borough Council did not feel it was important to support their Borough businesses and terminated the funding to the CEDC almost four years ago.  A strong and stable business and economic base in Collegeville helps lower property taxes for residents, ensures higher property values for homeowners, and increases the overall quality of life for our families and visitors.   

Businesses such as Sears, Acme, Subway, Radio Shack, and the Wine and Spirits Shoppe have left our borough.   Many smaller retail entities are also long gone.  The Providence Town Center and the revitalized business and Main-Street shopping districts in Phoenixville, Skippack, and surrounding areas are steadily siphoning off our disposable residential income, and the robustness of their business districts continue to threaten potential Collegeville-based businesses.   It appears that convenience stores and gas stations are becoming the most visually defining businesses in Collegeville. 

Still a wonderful place to live due to well-maintained and welcoming neighborhoods, the presence of Ursinus College, and our progressive Collegeville Police, many people are beginning to question if due to the erosion of its business district that this family-friendly, historic and walkable community has totally lost its luster.  Re-establishing a proactive Business Liaison Committee which works to keep businesses in Collegeville and partners with the CEDC to attract new businesses is the least the Borough Council could do to stem the tide and work toward revitalizing our business district.

For Collegeville Borough to be a viable business competitor in 2017, businesses must be recruited that define our Borough business district as a true destination.  With Providence Town Center’s Big Box stores, we see our marketing niche as attracting Mom and Pop unique specialty stores, such as artisan cheese and other food shops, cookware, clothing and other boutiques, delis, and family and high end restaurants, among others.   

We also are fortunate to have Ursinus College in Collegeville, and Brock Blumberg, the President of this 1,500 student campus, is moving to provide summer programs open to both the community and students year round in order to attract more student- and resident-focused businesses to Collegeville Borough.

The Borough Council could go one step further by establishing a “Business Development Commission.”  I would nominate Cathy Kernen, the only Democrat on the Collegeville Council for this Commission, and I believe that in addition to other Council Members, the commission could include residents of the community and small business owners.  Individuals with exemplary skills and background in business, marketing, communication and other areas could help us create a vision for the future of Collegeville Borough.  Establishing such a commission would be a positive step in demonstrating that the viability of the Collegeville Business District really does matters to the Borough Council.   

Many people mistakenly believe that the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) is a subset or function of the Collegeville Borough.    Not so.   While the CEDC was created by members of Ursinus College, Collegeville Borough Council and the local community in 2003, the Collegeville Borough Council itself has long since abandoned funding the Corporation and significantly partnering with it.   

The CEDC has a compelling vision. That vision is to promote the Collegeville Business District as a destination, enhance and promote social and economic connections between Ursinus College and the Business District, promote the accessibility and character of Collegeville and encourage family-related and visitor activities.  I am aghast that the Borough Council would sever synergistic connections and energies with members of this community and Ursinus College.  It is clear to me that without a business and economic vision and the will to pursue it, the borough businesses will slowly perish.

Currently, our Borough Council and the Planning Commission must make an important decision regarding the attractiveness and business sustainability of our community:

Whether or not it will amend the zoning of land situated in a flood plain which is also at the strategic center and gateway of our historic community to become the permanent site for a “gas and go” large convenience store that is not a destination and has underground fuel tanks.

These and other issues are connected to a fundamental belief that needs to be articulated:  What do the residents of Collegeville Borough want the Borough Council to focus on through a Business Liaison or Development Committee or Commission? 

Do they want the Borough Council and the CEDC to work together to attract restaurants and boutique and distinctive businesses to Collegeville, or do they want the status quo where the Borough Council only focuses on keeping the town and infrastructure running but does nothing to work with businesses and the CEDC? 

How do we go about identifying our priorities?   Re-instating the Business Liaison Committee and funding and partnering with the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation are good places to start.

Aidsand “Ace” Wright-Riggins

Candidate for Mayor

 

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